Pro football outlook: Odds are, odds won’t matter much on Sunday
October 24, 2006
For the record, 3:55 p.m. EST on Sunday is officially when the NFL stopped making sense.
That’s when the one-victory Texans triumphantly left the field after upending the Jaguars 27-7. Minutes later, the one-victory Buccaneers upset the former first-place Eagles with the second-longest game-winning field goal in NFL history, but even that was more probable than Houston’s thumping of the Jacksonville defense.
Houston hadn’t won a division game in its last seven tries and had managed to score only 20 points in a game once this year. Jacksonville had posted two shutouts already and was coming off a bye week.
The Jaguars were supposed to challenge the Colts for the AFC South crown this year. Now they’re just a game ahead of the Texans, who have looked like they’re trying to get back-to-back No. 1 picks in the draft.
Everyone loves parity in the NFL … until their team is supposed to win a game.
This week saw both of last year’s Super Bowl teams drop games to squads that missed the postseason last year, seven underdogs win outright and Indianapolis once again struggle against a cellar-dweller but do enough to remain undefeated.
For a 6-0 team, the Colts have been downright baffling.
Their high powered offense was held to one first-half touchdown by Washington on Sunday, and their defense is allowing 307 yards a game. They’ve won four games by less than a touchdown, including a three-point victory over the Jets and a one-point victory over the Titans.
They likely won’t be favored going into their next two games: at 5-1 Denver, then at 5-1 New England.
Over in the NFC only the Bears have been dominant, and they needed three defensive miracles and a Cardinals implosion last week to keep their record spotless at 6-0.
The teams hoping to catch them had no such luck this week. All of the NFC teams looking for their fifth victory of the season on Sunday found creative ways to fall back to the middle of the pack.
Carolina fell to the Bengals 17-14 thanks in large part to an end-zone interception thrown by Jake Delhomme with less than four minutes in the game. Seattle self-destructed in the third quarter of a 31-13 loss to the Vikings, who had scored more than 20 points only once this year.
Tampa Bay, winless two weeks ago, has now posted consecutive victories over the Bengals (4-2) and the Eagles (4-3).
Maybe next week the league will return to form, with the division leaders dominating and the expected doormats lying down.
Or maybe Oakland will upset Pittsburgh, and everything will remain abnormal.
Instant replayAFN-Sports will have a trio of game-winning field goals for viewers this week. On Thursday (2 p.m. Central Europe time) see the Falcons and the Steelers — two run-first offenses — combine for 644 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns before Atlanta wins the game with a 32-yard field goal in overtime.
On Wednesday (3:30 p.m. CET) watch the Chiefs surprise the Chargers with a 53-yard field goal with less than a minute to go to win 30-27.
And also on Wednesday (2 p.m. CET) see Donovan McNabb throw five touchdown passes — three to his teammates, two to Bucs DB Ronde Barber — before Philadelphia loses to Tampa Bay on a 62-yard last-second field goal.
Kicker Matt Bryant’s boot was the second longest game-winning field goal in NFL history. Coming into the game, he hadn’t made one longer than 28 yards.
McNabb loses his lunch in this game, but it came because of the near 100-degree heat in Tampa, and not because of the gut-wrenching loss.
Fantasy focusHouston RB Wali Lundy was so far off the depth chart the last week they couldn’t afford the extra letters for his first name, but after a 93-yard rushing performance on Sunday he is as good a guess as any to take over the Texans running attack. Ron Dayne didn’t play on Sunday and hasn’t posted more than 60 rushing yards yet this season, and former Packer Samkon Gado has the best name on the team but none of the statistics to back it up.
Of course, owners who picked up Jets RB Leon Washington last week after reading this column don’t need to worry about that extra depth for their teams. He had 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets win Sunday.
Looking aheadNext week’s games feature the best of the best, the worst of the worst, and not much in between.
Only four of the 14 games next week feature a team with winning record squaring off against a team sitting below .500. Five will feature teams with four victories or more, with Indianapolis at Denver leading those contests.
The Saints and Ravens will face off in New Orleans in the battle of two unexpected division leaders, and the loser of that game could be overtaken in the standings by the winner of the Atlanta-Cincinnati contest.
At the other end of the standings, the league’s oldest overhyped quarterback will face off against the league’s youngest overhyped quarterback in the Green Bay-Arizona game, and the Titans and Texans will square off in a game featuring big mascots and small expectations.